Constitutional promises meet political realities: a case study of South African women's groups and their influence on legislation
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This dissertation argues that the ever-increasing political hegemony of the African National Congress (ANC) over the last 10 years has undercut the progressiveness of institutional structures that were designed to enhance participatory democracy. Civil society’s ability to use institutions as avenues for input rests on effectively leveraging civil society's position and influence, something that South African groups cannot do in the current political context of African National Congress political hegemony. The central questions that animate this dissertation include: In what ways do women’s groups influence the policymaking process on legislation of importance to them? Specifically, how do women’s groups make use of institutional structures and access points available to them? When women’s groups use these institutional access points, why are these groups only sometimes and only somewhat successful in shaping legislation over the length of the legislative process? In what ways to do other actors in the policymaking processes nullify or validate input by women’s groups? Using legislative case studies on the Promotion of Equality and Prevention of Unfair Discrimination Act, No 4, 2000, the Domestic Violence Act (DVA) (no. 118 of 1998), and the Criminal (Sexual Offence) Amendment Bill, this dissertation provides insights into the interaction between civil society and government institutions and answers to these central questions. In each of these legislation case study chapters the dissertation explored the demands advocated by civil society and other actors throughout the legislative processes. This dissertation findings support the conclusion that the ever-increasing political hegemony of the ANC over the last 10 years has undercut the progressiveness of institutional structures that were designed to enhance participatory democracy. Civil society in all three cases was unable to argue effectively for increased state accountability or responsibility. Civil society did not and does not have any leverage to challenge the position of the ANC even within these consultative structures designed to facilitate civil society input into policy. As a result, the consultation that might occur within these structures does not result in lasting penetration of the legislation by civil society.